Friday, October 31, 2008

Album Of The Day #101: INFIDELS - Bob Dylan

Title: Infidels
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Released: 1983
Songs: Jokerman/Sweetheart Like You/Neighborhood Bully/License To Kill/Man Of Peace/Union Sundown/I And I/Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight
Written by: Bob Dylan
Produced by: Bob Dylan for "Wreck of the Old 97 Productions" and Mark Knopfler for Chariscourt, LTD.
Thoughts: For Dylan, there are few albums in the eighties that are considered ‘crown jewels’, but Infidels is certainly one of them.
It kicks off with the wonderful “Jokerman”. The track is littered with more biblical references than any one of the gospel albums combined, but the song seems to be anti-religion…or at least against anyone who thinks that what they are doing is in the best interest of religion. The groove behind Dylan sets the tone for the rest of the album, which features an intriguing mix of Jamaican artist Robbie (Shakespeare) & Sly (Dunbar) on bass and drums, respectively, set against the dual guitars of Mick Taylor and Mark Knopfler. To me, that’s the coolest thing about the LP: its’ overall sound. It’s just so awesome for its’ uniqueness. “Sweetheart Like You” is the first of two love songs and this is probably the better of the two. There are some great lines, especially the last verse:
They say that patriotism is the last refuge
To which a scoundrel clings.
Steal a little and they throw you in jail,
Steal a lot and they make you king.
There's only one step down from here, baby,
It's called the land of permanent bliss.
What's a sweetheart like you doin' in a dump like this?
His vocal is just amazing on that song, too. The way he asks his question “what’s a sweetheart like you doin’ in a dump like this?” is just incredible.
“Neighborhood Bully” is just a straight-up rocker about a misunderstood person, who probably is related to the “Clean Cut Kid”. It’s probably one of the more forgettable tracks on the LP, but there are still some nice moments. “License To Kill” is a really awesome song, although it is sort of slow. The lyrics aren’t straight-forward by anyone’s imagination, but they are really good. The way Dylan vocalizes his lyrics are very interesting as he takes them word by word, seemingly sucking all the meaning out of them as he goes along… “Man thinks (pause) ‘cause he rules the earth (pause) he can do with it as he please (longer pause) and if things don’t (another pause) change soon he wiiiiilllllll.” It’s just an interesting way of doing it, that’s for sure.
The second half opens with the drum roll of “Man Of Peace”. I don’t know about you, but I like the track. “You know sometimes Satan/He come as a man of peace.” I love that line. “Union Sundown” features Clyde King on backup vocals and it’s not one of my favorite songs, particularly because of its simplicity. Maybe Dylan just wanted to get a message across and he couldn’t find some witty way of doing it. “I And I” is pretty nifty, although its message is pretty much beyond recognition. I guess it is just about ego and how it can consume you. The album closes in the same manner employed for John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline back in 1967 and 1969, with a love song, that being “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight”. I think the song works perfectly as an ending, but if you put it in the middle of the album, you’d easily show its’ weaknesses. The lyrics aren’t that great, but I love his devotion to them. For example, the chorus is a little awkward, and the bridge feels rushed, but I love the way he sings it! “Don’t fall apart on me tonight/I just don’t think that I could handle it/Don’t fall apart on me tonight…”
The verdict is that Infidels is a great album. It’s enjoyable, has a consistent sound and eight really good songs.

I already wrote about Empire Burlesque and Knocked Out Loaded, so the next one will be on Down In The Groove.


Anonymous said...

You get that "Neighborhood Bully" is about Israel, right? (Not some relative of "Clean-Cut Kid")

dsl89 said...

Oh yeah, I did read that somewhere. I don't know...the songs sound kind of similar if you forget what they are really about. Both are about some person who gets misunderstood. I'm not saying that Dylan purposefully wrote "Clean Cut Kid" as a sequel, it's just that, to me, the two songs are slightly similar.

tiger said...

I don't know whether I am hallucinating in my old age but I've just returned to this album recently and I can't get through a day without playing " Don't fall apart on me tonight " at least ten times.There's something about it that keeps hooking me in ...I reckon the lyrics are to die for ......yesterday's just a memory , tomorrow's never what it's supposed to be

bokhara said...

"Neighborhood Bully" is not even subtle in the fact that it is written about the state of Israel. It even has a reference to the 1980 strike by the IAF on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.

Great album, great sound

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one of Dylans greatest songs was left of this album "Blind Willie McTell" Other greats cut at these sesions included "Lord Protect My Child" "Death Is Not the End" "Julius and Ethel" There is a great bootleg called "Outfidels" from these sessions